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Battling Strongholds

South Asia—the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, with strong Muslim elements—is seeing the witness of Christ being spread and strengthened among its nations. The witness of indigenous messengers is key.

TRIED IN THE FIRE

The strengthening of hard-line Hinduism under the Bharatiya Janata Party has increased opposition to the gospel. Churches are invaded by angry mobs and missionaries are harassed, threatened, beaten, and sometimes even killed. The burning to death of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons, aged 7 and 9, in 1999, shocked the world.

Since then mission groups native to India have adapted to the situation. While traditional churches are still being planted, house and cell churches multiply by the thousands. One ministry has planted 20,000 such clusters of Christians in 14 states of North India. Ministries also are quick to meet the practical needs of people with feeding programs, schooling, rehabilitation, medical clinics and other social outreaches.

HINDU KINGDOM OF NEPAL

When Nepal opened to foreigners in the 1950s, Christianity was identified with the foreigners who entered. About that time, Prem Pradhan, a Nepali serving in the Indian army, was converted through a street preacher discipled by Bakht Singh. Prem began taking the gospel to his own people, taking care not to mix foreign tradition with the truth of the Scripture.

It is estimated there are now more than 500,000 Nepali believers brought to faith almost exclusively by indigenous ministries.

BUDDHIST STRONGHOLDS

Faith in Christ has also spread into the Buddhist stronghold of Bhutan. Though churches are banned, clusters of believers meet secretly, discipled by those who cross the border to receive training in India, or by brave apostles who proclaim the faith secretly from house to house.

Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C., and born-again Christians compose barely 2% of the population. In 2003 increased Buddhist nationalism and intolerance have recently unleashed a wave of attacks on Christians.

The situation in Bangladesh is similar, except Islam is the dominant religion, and evangelical Christians number less than half a percent.

MUSLIM PAKISTAN

With the partition of India in 1947, many Hindus in what is now Pakistan fled to India, and Muslims in India fled to Pakistan—all amid widespread violence. Pakistan was given dominion status by the British, and became an independent republic in 1956, declaring Islam to be the state religion.

Indigenous evangelical Christians number less than half of one percent, and a growing anti-Christian sentiment in recent years increases potential violence against them. Yet one ministry claims to have planted 2000 churches (mostly house groups).

In all these lands, Christian Aid supports 255 ministries that have an estimated 25,000 local missionaries proclaiming the gospel to their people.


SC: WEBCAM